Federal Tire Efficiency Program Not Yet Ready for Consumers

On Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) posted final rules on passenger vehicle tire testing. Hard to contain your excitement, right? NHTSA continues to inch toward establishing a tire efficiency program that could be useful to consumers but the agency is not there yet.

Consumers need a rating system and tire efficiency labels to show them which tires can save gas. Although NHTSA proposed a label last June, it’s starting a new process designed to get more information on how to present efficiency information most effectively for consumers.

Fuel efficient tires are a good deal for drivers and the latest NHTSA ruling confirms this fact. Assuming just 1% of replacement tire sales are more efficient, NHTSA estimates annual fuel savings of over $23 million. That assumes consumers pay about $3 more for each fuel efficient tire that “improves rolling resistance and has no or slightly favorable impacts on wet traction and treadwear.” The payback for the consumer is less than six months.

It’s also important to note that NHTSA’s estimate is based on currently used technology (silica) that cuts rolling resistance by 10%, or improves a vehicle's fuel economy by 1-2% or more. However, offerings from well-known tire manufacturers like Michelin and Goodyear claim double the fuel savings.

NHTSA needs to move expeditiously to finalize a consumer rating and labeling system for tire efficiency. Cost-effective technology is already in the marketplace and its broad use can help cut our oil dependence, reduce global warming pollution and save drivers money at the pump. Now is the time to grab those savings.